People of faith, whatever the specific tradition, now confront a 21st-century global reality: Worship can get you killed, anywhere in the world.
Christian history is replete with the expulsion of persons from the church; times when sin, sex, orthodoxy and “special needs” all run together and somebody or some bodies had to go. Perhaps we should add an asterisk to “Everybody is Welcome” on our church signs.
“Our sins have “found us out.” Wrongs swept under the ecclesiastical carpet or committed inside the church’s dark corners have gone public, requiring us to move beyond casual piety to encounter the pain, depth and gift of repentance.
How can Christians navigate between righteous anger and gospel tenderness in a Church that often seems too divided, too weak and too panicked to respond to contemporary challenges?
For many today, American Civil Religion remains inseparable from Christianity, evident in current efforts among some 30 state legislatures to mandate the posting of “In God We Trust” (IGWT) in multiple government-related contexts. Haven’t we learned anything from history about the folly of such endeavors?
Whatever else the Jesus Story may mean, it must involve our response to “every stranger” as if they were “refugees from Bethlehem,” holy families in our midst.
I am forced to ask: what am I promoting as gospel right now that later generations will document, repudiate and apologize for? I can’t repent of the racism of my Baptist ancestors if I won’t repent of racism in myself and my own segment of American culture right now.
Investigative reporting by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram exposed widespread sexual abuse among Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastors. It should be another wake-up call to all religious communities across the theological and denominational spectrum.
What draws us back to Merton 50 years after his death is his haunting ability to unite the transcendent and the worldly, the inner and outer life with wondrous prose, occasional poetry and enduring spiritual insight.